Health Conditions That Can Cause Hearing Loss

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies reveal that you are twice as likely to have hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you are somebody that associates hearing loss with aging or noise trauma, this might surprise you. Close to 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were below the age of 44. Some form of hearing loss likely impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by quite a few diseases other than diabetes. Apart from the obvious factor of the aging process, what is the relationship between these illnesses and hearing loss? Give some thought to some diseases that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people who have diabetes have a higher occurrence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is related to hearing loss, but the clinical research does point in that direction. A condition that indicates a person may develop type 2 diabetes, called prediabetes, causes people to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than people who don’t have it.

While researchers don’t have a definitive answer as to why this happens, there are some theories. It is feasible that high glucose levels might cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. Diabetes is known to influence circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, normally due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing in part or in full if they get this condition. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss in American young people.

The delicate nerves which send signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. Without these signals, the brain has no means of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. This category contains these common diseases:

  • Heart attack
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Heart failure
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke

Normally, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be associated with age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is vulnerable to injury. Damage to the inner ear causes hearing loss when there is a change in blood flow and it doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to thrive.

Chronic Kidney Disease

A 2012 study published in The Laryngoscope found that people with this condition also had an increased risk of hearing loss. A separate study found that chance to be as high as 43 percent. It is possible that this relationship is a coincidence, though. Kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Another hypothesis is that the toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure may be the culprit. These toxins may damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

The connection between hearing loss and dementia is a two-way street. There is some evidence that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s chances of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

It also works the other way around. As injury to the brain increases someone who has dementia will show a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection that can cause children to lose their hearing when they’re very young. Hearing loss might affect both ears or only one side. The reason this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. It’s the part of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The good news is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who gets the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the occasional ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. However, the little bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from constantly recurring ear infections. This form of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force, so no messages are transmitted to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Prevention is the key to steering clear of many of the illnesses that can cause you to lose hearing. Throughout your life protecting your hearing will be achievable if you exercise regularly, get the right amount of sleep, and have a healthy diet. You should also get regular hearing exams to make sure your ears stay healthy.

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